Monday, September 1, 2014

THE Vuelta: Rest Day Miscellanea

It seems the rest day has gone by as quickly as the past 9 stages. I’ve done a whole lot of nothing today and it’s now approaching dinner time. This is my first rest day in a race, and it’s a bizarre feeling. There’s the duality of “we’ve ALREADY done 9 stages/we’ve ONLY done 9 stages,” but I’m also confused by the concept of a day without racing in the middle of a race.

Normally, I’d be doing a short ride with a little bit of intensity to keep my body in the race rhythm before tomorrow’s time trial, but the plan has changed. Since I’m climbing really well right now, and seem to be improving daily, the team has asked me to pass on the opportunity for a personal result tomorrow and take a bonus rest day. It’s directly against my personal philosophy of passing up opportunities, but I have to keep in mind that my primary purpose here is support for Warren and John, and the best way to do that is to be as sharp as possible for the remaining 11 stages (after the TT). So today I took it really easy and will use tomorrow’s TT to wake my legs back up. To soften the blow, the short TT on the final stage suits me better anyways—and there will be no holding me back on that one!

I’m very encouraged to be feeling so good at this point in the race. My longest race this year was 8 days, and we’ve already passed that point. August is over, and the numbers show that it was my biggest month on the bike ever at over 100 hours and 2135 miles (3500km).

There’s not much else to say, it’s just a rest day, after all. So instead, here’s some miscellaneous stuff from the race that I couldn’t quite fit into my other posts.

Something that isn’t focused on much from the outside, but is crucial to our performance, is food. Normally, the race gives our hotels money to feed us, and it frequently goes like this:

“Here’s 30E per racer to feed them during the race.”

“What can we possibly give them for only 30E? Oh I know, how about we give them a meager salad, some pasta with red sauce, and boil some chicken and potatoes? That’s all cyclists need, right?”

The team travels with a big box of condiments to breathe some life and flavor into the meals, but at the core, you have a meal that gets old before it the plate touches the table. In the last week, I’ve averaged 3900kJ per stage. Including the calories I need just to get through the day, I have to eat about 6000 calories daily. To do that for 3 weeks requires flavor and variety—in short, good food. And that’s where Janneke comes in.

Janneke is the team’s chef, she comes to almost all the WorldTour stage races, and she makes life SO MUCH BETTER. Every night we’re graced with a spread of dishes, and I always have to have some of everything. My biggest problem is refraining from eating too much. From quinoa salads to bruschetta with goat cheese, steak and mashed potatoes, we’re never left wanting for food. Her delicious breads never last long at breakfast, even when supplemented with omelets and fruit-filled muesli.

I just wanted to take the opportunity to give credit where it’s due—in this case, a chef whose work is almost entirely behind the scenes. The mechanics keep our bikes running, the soigneurs maintain our legs, and Janneke fuels the engines that are running full steam for 3 weeks straight. Tonight she’s treating us to burgers!

On to another topic, one that’s been puzzling me. With 198 racers frequently all trying to be at the front at once, contact is bound to happen. Of all the bumps and grazes I’ve given/received in the peloton in the last week, I’ve been shocked—literal, electrical shock—4 times. All 4 were from BMC riders. They must be the source of the static buildup, because I’m not shocked every time I’m bumped. I’m just really curious as to the cause…is it due to one of the half-dozen battery-powered devices on the bike (which most teams have), or some sort of clothing interaction, like wool socks on carpet? And why are they the only team?

And finally, a story from Lawson’s crash a few days ago:

It’s no secret that spectators go nuts for souvenirs. I’ve seen a water bottle tossed into the middle of an unsuspecting crowd and been disturbed by the ensuing frenzy. I’ve heard that spectators will sometimes remove the water bottles from a crashed rider’s bike as they generously stand it back up for him. Well, it seems they are willing to go even further for a taste of what we’ve got. Lawson crashed in a roundabout while eating one of our soigneurs’homemade rice cakes. Naturally, he dropped it. Wanna guess where it ended up? That’s right, a spectator’s mouth. Lawson picked himself up off a road so dirty that it was literally shiny, while somebody else picked up his half-eaten sticky rice cake and enjoyed an afternoon snack.

That’s all for now!